Vogue has a lot to thank Lady Gaga for.
The title was the only one in the fashion magazine category to show a sales increase on the newsstand in the first half, and it was all down to the outre pop star’s appearance on the March cover. The shot, featuring a pink-haired Gaga wearing a breezy white gown with purple lips, drove sales up by more than 100,000 copies over the March 2010 issue, which featured a polar opposite type of celebrity: Tina Fey.
This story first appeared in the August 10, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
All in all, Vogue averaged 360,400 copies during the first half of this year at newsstand, up 12.7 percent.
Every other fashion title — with the exception of Allure, which was flat — dropped in the first half, some by more than double digits. However, the industry as a whole experienced a decline of 9.2 percent. “Fashion seems reflective of the overall trend right now,” said Jack Hanrahan, publisher of CircMatters. “Overall, only a few magazines are not doing so badly but, mostly, there are a lot of negative numbers.”
Time Inc.’s InStyle, down 8 percent for the period, remains the leader at the newsstand, selling an average of 570,272 copies, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Marie Claire, down 21.5 percent in single-copy sales to 198,752, had the worst percentage newsstand decline among fashion titles for the half. “Our category in particular rises and falls when there are big strong female movies,” editor in chief Joanna Coles said, referring to earlier successes like “Sex in the City 2.” “This year, the movies for women have been much less interesting.”
Coles also took three months — April, May and June — to experiment with ensemble covers: a male-female movie star one featuring Bradley Cooper and Abbie Cornish; a “Glee” cover, and a female-female star cover with Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson.
“We just wanted to see if groups on the cover worked — actually the ‘Glee’ cover was OK, but people just didn’t respond to the other two,” she said. The April cover with Cooper and Cornish was the magazine’s worst performer so far this year. “I don’t think women like men on the cover of a women’s magazine,” Coles concluded.
As previously reported, Glamour got off to a bumpy start at the beginning of the year which didn’t improve: The magazine was down 17.5 percent in single-copy sales to 453,707 in the first half. Cindi Leive’s winning cover during the period was published in February with Kim Kardashian, proving that reality stars still have the power to trump the A-list celebrities on big fashion magazines (Kate Winslet, who appeared on the April cover, was the worst seller).
Harper’s Bazaar was up 10 percent during the first half of last year when the rest of the category was down, but the title stumbled this year, down 14.3 percent to 137,117.
“It would be a lot easier if we could feature proven sellers like Jennifer Aniston or Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover every month, but we took some risks this year and tried stars that were a little outside of the norm for us, and they didn’t always translate into newsstand sales,” editor in chief Glenda Bailey admitted.
For example, she put “The Good Wife” actress Julianna Margulies on the January cover and the change up from a big celeb resulted in the lowest sales of the period. “We are focused on producing great covers in the fourth quarter and beyond, and we won’t stop experimenting, both on the newsstand and on our subscriber copies,” she added.
People StyleWatch, traditionally a strong performer on the newsstand, faltered like almost everyone else, falling 11.8 percent to 504,504 copies in the first six months. Reese Witherspoon, once the golden girl of fashion covers, resulted in the title’s lowest single-copy sales (she was also a dud for Vogue), but Lauren Conrad, the reality star who continues to be a go-to cover girl, won out for the April issue. W, which has never relied on newsstand, was also down 11.8 percent to 19,006. It seems W readers loved Mila Kunis in the March issue but didn’t feel compelled to pick up the May one with January Jones.
Lucky continued its downward trend on the newsstand, declining 9 percent to 150,271. Elle, which counted Katy Perry as a newsstand winner in the first half, was also down 9 percent to 250,056.